News Center

Friday, May 3, 2019

What you may have missed

Dear friends,

Last week while the Senate was not in session, I made an official visit to Iraq with U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, who is a combat veteran, and Angus King from Maine. While there, we met with military commanders from Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve as well as with senior State Department officials to receive updates about counter-terrorism and stabilization operations in the region.

We spent three days meeting with top Iraqi leaders, American diplomats and military commanders and service members in the region to gain a better understanding of operational and strategic impacts of U.S. policy and national defense strategy. We also met with Kurdish leaders to reiterate the importance of our nation’s alliance with our Kurdish partners who fought alongside American forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

During our visit, and completely by coincidence, I met two Georgians who had participated years ago in our military service academy program! One of my own U.S. Air Force Academy nominees from 2008, Air Force Captain David Zitelli from Fayette County, Ga., piloted our C-17 military aircraft. The very next day, while I was having lunch with soldiers from Georgia at the Baghdad embassy, I met another former academy appointee, Army Captain Donnie Byerly from Alpharetta, Ga., who had attended my annual academy day in 2007 and received a nomination for West Point from then-U.S. Representative Tom Price, R-Ga., in 2008. 

As I visited with service members from Georgia and around the country, I was constantly reminded how important it is for our all-volunteer force to have the best and the brightest sign up and pursue a career in the military. This was all brought back home for me, quite literally, when my 20th annual Service Academy Day was held in Georgia the day after I returned from Iraq. More than 800 Georgia students and parents attended the event, which is the largest of its kind in the country and is designed to help students with the application and nomination process for the nation’s five military service academies. Applications to apply for next year’s classes of these academies are due on Oct. 2.

I’m honored to represent the great state of Georgia, and I thank our service members, past, future and present, for their service and sacrifice to keep our country safe and free.

Aid for Georgia

On Tuesday, Senator Perdue and I held a bipartisan press conference with several of our colleagues from other affected states to continue our push for critical disaster relief funding. It has been more than six months since Georgia was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, and Congress has failed to provide assistance. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to take immediate action to provide this critical funding to our farmers. I’m going to continue fighting to see that we get it done.

Filling Vacancies on Georgia’s Courts

On Tuesday, I had the honor of introducing Steven D. Grimberg, nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, to the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearing. Mr. Grimberg served as a federal prosecutor at the Department of Justice for 12 years, most recently as deputy chief of economic crimes at the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Georgia. He’s twice received the department’s outstanding performance award from the Department of Justice, and I look forward to him being approved to the Northern District of Georgia.

Since taking office, President Trump has nominated two U.S. Circuit Court nominees from Georgia, Lisa Branch and Britt Grant, as well as six U.S. District Court nominees from Georgia, Michael Brown, Tripp Self III, Stan Baker, Billy Ray, J.P. Boulee and Grimberg. Of those, only Boulee and Grimberg still await confirmation by the Senate.

Positive News for Rural Hospitals

I’ve been working for years to aid our Georgia hospitals by correcting a Medicaid reimbursement problem, and we received good news while I was in Iraq last week about a rule change by the administration that appears to answer our efforts. I am studying the specifics, but if it does follow my previously introduced legislation on the issue, the rule change would mean that rural hospitals would be fairly reimbursed for their services under the Medicare program, ultimately ensuring that patients have continued access to emergency and medically necessary care.

In addition to the legislation I introduced twice previously, Senator Perdue and I sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma in March requesting that the agency update Medicare payment policies and increase the disproportionately low Medicare reimbursement payments to hospitals in underserved and economically struggling regions. I applaud this response by the administration, which would be a huge victory for Georgians.

In Other News

  • On Wednesday, Senator Perdue, U.S. Representative Rob Woodall and I welcomed the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to Washington, D.C., for their annual legislative fly-in to their discuss priorities with Georgia’s Congressional delegation. It’s always beneficial to hear directly from community leaders advocating for their priorities with one shared voice to ensure we can continue to work on their behalf in Congress.
  • On Monday, The First Tee, an organization that uses the sport of golf to provide learning opportunities for young people, presented me with an award for supporting their organization and mission ahead of National Golf Day, which was May 1. I’m flattered to receive this recognition, and I commend The First Tee on their efforts to promote long-term life skills.

  • On Tuesday, I was honored to receive the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Distinguished Service Award. I appreciate all of the Georgia members of NRECA that came to meet with my staff and me while they were in D.C. for their annual conference. Our electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) serve 4.4 million Georgians and employ nearly 6,000 workers. It’s my honor to fight for the customers and employees in Georgia who benefit from not only stable sources of power, but also the numerous community services, training programs and other initiatives led by our EMCs.

  • On Thursday, Senator Perdue, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter and I welcomed the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce to Washington, D.C., for their annual legislative fly-in. In addition to discussing priorities for the area, I presented retiring Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber President Woody Woodside with a printed copy of a speech I gave on the Senate floor thanking him for his work on behalf of his community and our state. Woody’s leadership will be sincerely missed, and I wish him luck in his retirement.
  • Also this week, I had the pleasure of speaking via Skype with students from LaGrange College and Pickens Junior High School. I appreciate these students’ interest in the legislative process and wish them luck as they finish up the semester!

  • This week, we lost a former member of the U.S. Senate. I spoke Wednesday on the Senate floor to pay tribute to former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who served in the Senate from 1976 to 2012 and who leaves behind a deep legacy in the United States and around the world. He was a bastion of strength on nuclear nonproliferation, a gentleman of the Senate and a devoted Hoosier. I was proud to call him my friend. My prayers are with his family.

 

  • Last week, President Trump attended the 8th annual “Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit” in Atlanta. During the summit, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump addressed federal, state and local professionals working to address the opioid epidemic. We passed major federal legislation last year to give Georgia and states across the country, along with our medical community and first responders, better tools to fight this crisis. I appreciate the president’s continued emphasis on this problem, which has touched so many families, including my own.
  • The Senate confirmed three nominees to our federal agencies this week to help carry out the mission and goals of our government. We also voted to confirm five judges to our courts.

What’s On Tap?

On Monday, I look forward to speaking to the Rotary Club of Atlanta before returning to Washington for another full week.

Sincerely,